Monday, August 01, 2011

From ‘so what’ to instant fan


Soulful singer Amy Winehouse has joined the exclusive “forever 27 club” – troubled musicians who die at that age – ending her struggle with substance abuse.

AMY Winehouse is dead. And I’m now a fan. I found out via Twitter that Winehouse died at about 12.23am (Malaysian time) on July 24.

@asianbeaver retweeted: “Police sources have confirmed that Amy Winehouse is dead. Found at her North London home at 3.54pm. Drink and drugs overdose suspected.”

So what? I thought. Another singer dead. What’s new? I was clueless about Winehouse’s reputation.

She was a name and face that I was hazily aware of. When she was alive, I had little curiosity about a singer whose trademarks were her beehive, heavy eyeliner, tattoos, six-inch stilettos and micro-dresses.

After reading (a Malaysian website designed to add sizzle and spice to your life), I knew that she was a troubled young woman.

Her trouble had something to do with substance abuse.

I was also clueless about her music. I assumed that with her druggie image she was a punk rock or an emo artist (emo is a style of rock music typically characterised by melodic musicianship and expressive, often confessional, lyrics).

Now, don’t give me that dirty look. I’ve been ignorant of contemporary music since I got tired of watching MTV about a decade ago.

Probably the last music video I ever watched on MTV was Madonna’s Music.

Minutes after her death, my Twitter timeline (a real-time list of tweets on Twitter) was swamped with tweets about Winehouse’s tragic death.

The one tweet which changed me from “So what?” to “Who is she?” was from @imfionaho: (Winehouse) is the singer who sang “They tried to make me go to rehab. I said no, no, no.”

(According to, the song Rehab – about her refusal to attend an alcohol rehabilitation centre – generated huge publicity with Winehouse frequently being photographed drinking on stage and in pubs.)

And – because I am now part of the generation that doesn’t watch CNN or BBC on TV – with a quick tap of my right middle finger on the iPad I googled “Amy Winehouse”.

I watched a BBC breaking news video clip.

The announcer said the singer was found dead by ambulance crews at her London flat. He continued: “In an era of synthetic music, she was a singer-songwriter. The stuff that she sang was her own.”

Winehouse, was also described in the BBC report as one of the most talented and soulful artists of her age. That was a ‘huh’ moment for me. Talented? Soulful?

Curious, I clicked YouTube to watch her video Back To Black. And I became an instant fan.

The lyrics were so sorrowful: “We only said goodbye with words. I died a hundred times. You go back to her. And I go back to black.”

Her voice was so soulful.

It was her break-up with boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil (a former video production assistant and fellow drug user) that inspired Back To Black, a single in her million-selling album of the same title which was released in October 2006.

“One of the secrets of the singer’s success,” according to Fiona Sturges of British newspaper The Independent, “was that her pain was real, born from her much-publicised drug abuse and heartache.”

Her out-of-control personal life made her the Lindsay Lohan of soul music.

Winehouse shocked a journalist from Spin (a US magazine) when she carved Fielder-Civil’s name on her abdomen with a shard from a mirror during the interview.

In May 2007, she secretly married Fielder-Civil in Florida, United States. They divorced in 2009.

You can watch YouTube clips of her disastrous final performance in Belgrade last month.

Winehouse cancelled her Euro-pean comeback tour after she – in the words of Sturges – “appeared drunk, mumbling into the microphone, clutching members of her band and at one point, sitting on the floor and removing her shoes.”

She was booed off stage.

Winehouse died at the age of 27. The soulful singer joins an exclusive club – “forever 27” – of troubled musicians to die at that age.

Musical legends such as Janis Joplin (Queen of Rock and Roll and the Queen of Psychedelic Soul), Jimi Hendrix (one of the greatest electric guitarists in musical history), Jim Morrison (The Doors frontman) and Kurt Cobain (lead singer in grunge band Nirvana).

When you do the math, Lady Gaga (born March 28, 1986) has two more years to go, while 17-year-old Justin Bieber will be luckier, as his singing career will probably be dead before he reaches the “forever 27” mark.

Winehouse may have died, but her music lives on.